Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Recreate with Recreation


Hi friends! I know it has been a long time since my last post but I have been crazy busy with summer programs. Whew, it has been a fun summer!! I wanted to share this post about getting out for some awesome recreation activities for students with vision impairments. It was another great year for Camp Abilities UT. This year I went with the theme of "passport to recreation" and each day we ventured to a new recreation activity. We spent time with the students discussing what recreation is, how they can do it and most importantly, WHY recreation is important for everyone! The picture below is  the front of the Camp Abilities UT shirt. 

It can be a challenge when you are first thinking about recreation activities that work well for students with very little to no vision. I have a few thoughts that I consider when I am planning recreation activities for my students--both my younger elementary students and my older middle to high school age students. First, I think of interest level. For example, are students interested in physical recreation activities, solitary recreation or low key (but interesting and fun) recreation? It is easy to just assume that recreation is going to be sports or physical activities. There are so many options (many that require minimal modifications or support) for youths with vision impairments! Gardening, cooking, theater, book groups, board games--and so many more are great options that are not physical.  The picture below is bowling with the black lights on. One of our students is getting a quick coach from one of our lead teachers as he throws the ball down the lane. 
Most of this post will discuss recreation activities that are community based. I am always looking for ways for students to be more active in their communities or future college campus. I think it is important for our kids to have connections that will help them be visible and active in their communities. 
Here are some fun recreation activities that our kids can do with friends and family with minimal modifications:
1. Bowling: bowling is great because you can have fun with any level of it. You can be on a league and be competitive or like many of us, just go and laugh at yourself for being a bad bowler! The main modification is that our kids just need to know where to line up to walk straight. We do bowling every year and all of the kids love it!! Our elementary age kids to high school have a great time bowling, listening to music and chatting with their friends. I usually spend half the time with the lights on but then we go for black light bowling. We have a wide range of visual needs and the black light doesn't really take away but usually adds to the fun for the students. 
The picture below is of four bowling balls in a square formation with a folded white cane on top of them. 

2. Ropes course: take a challenge on a high ropes course or a low ropes course! We took on an adventure course that was waaayyyy up high!! I usually like to do a quick preteach for my students that have no vision of just what the course layout is or footing sequences they will need to use (i.e. walking across a broken bridge).  The picture below is of the adventure ropes course with all the different routes you can travel on the course.

3. Stand up paddle boarding: SUP has become a huge hit in the Camp Abilities circuit and for many people in general! The only thing SUP requires is decent balance and a fun attitude. We go paddle boarding with KoliFit Fitness. They are a fantastic club that have taken us out on some fun adventures. The only equipment needed are the paddle boards, paddles and life jackets! Preteach moment: the kids get on the board on land (to check out the layout/size of the board) then onto shallow where they kneel initially to establish their balance. Fun for the whole family or out with friends! The picture below is two students on paddle boards. One student is kneeling with instructor behind them paddling and the other student is standing while paddling on their own. 

4. Wibit: You may be wondering what a wibit is...it's a giant water inflatable playground or obstacle island to play on. So many kids (and adults) have a blast playing on the wibit. Our local rec center has Wibit Wednesday where everyone can go play on the wibit at night. There are different wibits but the standard one is pictured below. It is long and stretches across the width or length of the pool. It's enormous and has a variety of different obstacles such as a slide and things to climb over or around. We do a quick preteach just to make sure students have an idea of where and how to travel the wibit. We sometimes put an adult staff member in the middle for verbal coaching. I let students go one by one or sometimes let them race depending on their comfort level. Our rec center Wibit Wednesday is every week throughout the year so even in the winter, we can still have pool fun!
5. Archery: Yes, archery! It may require a little bit more hands on learning but it is a very doable option for our kids. One quick modification is that we put a sound source to identify which location to aim. We have used a standard sound source from APH (available on quota funds) or wireless bluetooth speaker. Archery is a nice option because much like bowling, you can be on a team and compete or you can do it for fun and increase your skills. The picture below is of a young woman with a bow aiming at a target. 
6. Fencing: FENCING!! This was a new idea that was way fun! Special note: fencing does require a lot of technique to do competitive footwork and it does help to have a good fencing coach. However, for some fun recreation fencing was a great choice! Fencing is a sport that does not require vision. Whisper coaches can stand behind the athlete and provide coaching. We did a long preteach session to work on footwork (i.e. lunge, retreat, etc.). We did foil but we also considered epee. Low vision as well as our Braille reader students successfully participated fully. Lots of fun! The picture below is two students in fencing attire in a one on one competition. 

7. Horseback riding: This is a popular option and many of our students have done it before. It is a fun option for students of lots of ability levels. We were fortunate to have a young adult man who has no vision come and ride with us. There is more than just being on the horse for our students. We took time to brush the horses, feed them and just spent time with them. The picture below is a student riding a horse while an adult leads it. 
These 7 activities are fun recreation options that our kids can do with their families and friends. But don't think that there are just 7! There are so many options. Feel free to share more ideas with me. There are many advantages for recreation for everyone; not just people with vision impairments. It recreates us physically and emotionally. It is important for our kids and young adults as it is a designated area of the Expanded Core Curriculum!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Use Board Games to Teach the Expanded Core Curriculum


Looking for another fun way to implement the Expanded Core Curriculum at home this summer? How about some fun board game play! Say what?! Yep! Here are three board games that pack a fun ECC punch.
It's just not recreation leisure ECC area that board games cover. Many students with vision impairments especially those with more significant vision loss struggle with asking meaningful questions to obtain information. It's a true skill for our kids and youth to learn how to discern useful information and know how to get it. This is something I have been working on teaching my students for forever. In fact, one of my favorite OM instructor and I used to joke that we were going to start a question camp just to work on the art of asking good questions to get meaningful information!

This year at my Theater Camp I figured out a way to work on this area. I got some board games that focus on questions, listening, information, etc. that were actually fun to play. The first of my favorite games is Hedbanz. This is a great game for question asking that also packs a lot of other ECC areas.


The first thing I do is make sure all of the students are familiar with the rules and the "how to" of the game. The pictures I've posted are of the game brand new. Next, I whip out some Brailleables, any kind of fave Braille labels or I just Braille right onto the card (I would do this if you are just buying for home. I use labels because I use them at camps over and over). I also discuss some of the objects on the card as a pre-teach for concept development. 

Note: I secretly keep tabs of cards that students did not know anything about so I can later get those items and teach about it. Most times the kids know the cards but I always have my teacher brain on....
Then I just play the game! There are a few versions like Disney Hedbanz and all are a lot of fun. They do give you sample question cards to help you ask good questions. I usually Braille those, too. This game is great for working ECC skills because you really can touch on almost all ECC areas. It's also just a fun social game. I play it with all ages of students to be honest because we all just have a great time. Sometimes we race to see how fast we can figure out the cards with older students or do something new and silly for them. 


Apples to Apples is another fun game that teaches ECC areas. I prefer to play the Junior version with most of my younger students. It takes awhile to get the Braille on but that, too, is an ECC teaching moment since I ask my students to help Braille them. We have a lot of fun with the combinations and again we discuss different social items related. There isn't too much for the question asking in this game but it still teaches a lot of meaningful ECC skills. 



What is IT? is an APH game that is similar to Hedbanz. I originally didn't know about this game until it was offered to me as we were cleaning out old items. What a diamond of a find! Check out the example I snapped a picture of below:
They provide tons of items and some helpful tips for teaching how to play the game. Once I see that students get the hang of it, I challenge them to come up with their own items by topic. For example, things you would find in a kitchen. See how I am teaching ECC here? I'm working some good independent living skills in a fun way. Then I can extend the lesson by asking students to find the actual items in the kitchen or discuss where to buy them/use them for different types of meals. 

It's been really fun to keep playing these board games and linking them to the ECC. I also love playing Left Center Right (see old posts for it) and other group games like Hottest (see older posts) that completely incorporate Expanded Core skills. 

If you aren't sure how you are implementing ECC while playing, break down the nine areas and see how they fit. I'll be sharing my favorite ECC worksheets that I use with my teachers to help them implement the ECC later. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bringing Braille Literacy to Art with Shoe Design


I love our new library gal! She has immersed herself in the Expanded Core and has a ton of fun ideas for integrating it in meaningful ways. She had our transition class work their ECC skills with the Vans Custom Culture Contest. How fun?!

Because literacy makes it's mark in many ways - we ventured down the road of Art & Design in our Library Class. Together, the class conceptualized and designed four pairs of shoes for VANS Custom Culture contest. Each detail, theme, and material was discussed until a clear end product was brought to the table. Our library curriculum specialist helped execute the plan.  All four shoes are awaiting review to hopefully move on to the next round. Each student brought specific ideas to the table, and their outcome is fantastic--  from Braille on shoes to SW Local flavour - each is super unique.

I wanted to share this because I thought it was a great and super relevant way to relate the ECC for our transition age students. There were so many connections to different ECC skill areas with working on this contest. Plus, our shoes are on display at our school for everyone to see and to feel. Looks like the ECC is pretty fashionable, too!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

On-the Go-Learning Resource

Hi friends,
I want to share one of my fave resources for my educational teams. Check out On-the-Go Learning from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).  They have archived webinars on a variety of topics including the Expanded Core Curriculum areas.  I took some screen shots so you can check out all of the different options.
You can also check it out here: http://www.tsbvi.edu/on-the-go-learning

There two other things that I really like about these webinars: transcripts and chapters. Transcripts are common but they aren't always included in everything. I like to have them to handout to families or teachers (although watching the webinars are pretty rad, too!). I like that you can use transcripts for notes, too!  I also love that they list the chapters with the time so you can advance to different sections of the webinar. This is especially helpful if it is a 50 minute webinar. Some colleagues may lose interest so being able to tell them to advance to a designated time is really helpful. 
Bookmark this TSBVI site and share it with your educational teams!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pairing Shapes with Everyday Concepts Using the APH Carousel of Textures

 This past school year I have loved seeing all the fun ideas from one of my talented colleagues, Keri. She has done an amazing job with creativity and instruction. Her classroom are lower elementary age students that although are awesome kids, have struggles with becoming learners. She has done a terrific job of pairing all kinds of core and Expanded Core concepts to everyday routines, concepts and experiences. I want to share two of her ideas that had a lot of impact on her students.
Keri, like all of our teachers, use the TSBVI Elementary Concepts Curriculum. She selected concepts that are most familiar to her students. One concept is their home. She used their home paired with squares and rectangles. This created some meaning with learning about shapes and lines. She used the APH Carousel of Textures to accomplish this. The Carousel of Textures has several different textured papers. 


The textured papers also allowed a secondary concept, texture discrimination, to also occur naturally. Keri worked with parents to find out if they lived in small homes or large homes. They went hands on with windows, doors, walls and tied them to shapes. They discussed big and small. Then after much simple instruction--chaining together concepts, they put together their homes. 
Look at the pictures and notice the use of lines, shapes and textures. These projects were simple enough that students could work with minimal support with making them but packed a big instructional punch. 

Now check out how another similar lesson teaches about shapes. This lesson used cars. The home lesson focused on squares and rectangles. The car lesson used the same concepts but also included circles. 



Here's my famous question: can you see how many areas of the Expanded Core are covered in these lessons? All of the areas of the ECC are covered in these lessons! Yep, these lessons involve all the areas from compensatory (concept development, organization, tactual readiness) to self-determination (self-awareness, making choices, self-instruction). These are great activities for the early childhood age students. 
You can purchase the APH Carousel of Textures from APH. Most of APH products can be purchased using quota funds. You can also check out activity ideas by using the TSBVI Elementary Concepts Curriculum. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Joystick Tactile Object Attachment for Tactile Calendar System


A long time ago I posted about this awesome assistive technology lady, Therese Willkomm, who did this great workshop on easy assistive technology solutions. I only got to see half of her presentation and always wished I could have learned more. As luck would have it, several years later I find myself enrolled in Therese's Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes class through Perkins e-learning series. I highly recommend this class!
Each week we learn about all kinds of fun things--adhesives, PVC, corrugated plastics, etc and we build and share our new ideas. This past week we learned about instamorph and I am in love! 
I am excited about this idea that I camp up with (thanks to the class): it's a joystick attachment for calendar object symbols. 
I have several students that have a goal of grasping items in their hands. We have some joystick switches that work with our switch adapted toys. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to expand options for giving our students meaningful ways of grasping things. Many of my students use calendar object systems but they are limited because grasping their objects is difficult. We can use eye gaze but that doesn't work for students who have significant vision loss. 
I wanted to find a way to make a more meaningful joystick for students other than with toys. I combined the joystick with the calendar object system.  I used the APH Tactile Connections Kit for this project.
You can buy Instamorph at several places including Michael's and Amazon. It dries white but you can buy colored pellets to add color to it. You can grab a good size bag for about $20. It's totally reusable (about 6 different times to reuse for best uses) and you can make stuff in a snap. 

Here's the How To:
First, start with your original symbol. This is the music symbol for one of my students. 

 I took apart the symbol, grabbed two strong magnets and got to work with the Instamorph.

 I flipped the symbol foundation (the green thing you see) over and glued the magnet to the bottom.

I used my Instamorph and molded it into a joystick and made sure that I flattened the bottom so that I could Gorilla Glue it to the magnet.


It worked! I hovered the magnet joystick over the symbol (with the magnet on the bottom) and it instantly magnetized. Now my student can practice grasping things in a meaningful way and can make choices using their object calendar system. 

Improvement to be made: I will find thinner magnets for the back side OR make sure I put a piece of foam so that the symbol isn't slanted.
Of course you will have to modify based on your calendar system items. I actually did several more for my students. 
Now I can really work on two different goals with students easier: 1) grasping in a meaningful way and 2) encouraging students to make choices. Remember to go at the students' pace and teach/reinforce/practice a lot so that they get the meaningful piece of this.
Resources for calendar object systems:
Calendar Boxes and Schedule Systems as Literacy Tools
Check back to my other posts on calendar systems because I have posted several times about them in the past.